Este domingo, los Dallas Cowboys tomarán el campo para enfrentarse a los Carolina Panthers en su primer partido de temporada regular. Empieza la campaña en la que Jason Garrett y compañía intentarán volver a la pos-temporada después de un 2017 bastante decepcionante.
Siendo visitantes en su primer partido, los Cowboys llegan a Carolina como los "underdogs" del enfrentamiento. Sin embargo, con una defensiva titular que ha demostrado que tiene mucho talento, la inconsistente ofensiva de Cam Newton podría vérselas negras en contra de una defensiva frontal bastante fuerte, estrenando una nueva versión de Jaylon Smith.
En cuanto a la ofensiva, es hora de finalmente ver a Dallas sin Jason Witten ni Dez Bryant en el campo, pero al final de cuentas el verdadero centro de esa ofensiva está en Ezekiel Elliott, quien tocará por primera vez el campo después de descansar la pretemporada.
No será un juego sencillo, pero mi predicción es que los Cowboys se llevan una victoria difícil para abrir la temporada 1-0. A falta de una amenaza en la posición de WR de Panthers, creo que la defensiva de los Cowboys hará lo suficiente para darle la oportunidad a Dak Prescott y el resto de la ofensiva llevarse la victoria a casa.
Predicción: Cowboys 23 - 21 Panthers
El Gran Impacto del Regreso de Randy Gregory
Por más que hablemos al respecto, el regreso del defensive end Randy Gregory es realmente una razón de celebración. No sólo superó problemas personales muy grandes sino que después de verlo en la pretemporada, ha demostrado que sigue teniendo el talento para ser un titular en la NFL.
Y eso es justamente lo que podríamos ver este domingo cuando la defensiva de los Cowboys salga al campo. Es por eso que el impacto de tener de vuelta a Gregory ha sido mucho más del esperado. Con él listo y en condición para la primera semana, Rod Marinelli podrá desplazar a Tyrone Crawford de vuelta a DT y así, Dallas tendrá a DeMarcus Lawrence de un lado y a Randy del otro para aterrorizar quarterbacks opuestos semana tras semana.
Al final de cuentas, Gregory es un jugador que joven que de mantenerse fuera de problemas será capaz de probar porque se le veía como un talento Top 10 en el NFL Draft del 2015. Si aún no forman parte del grupo de aficionados que le tiene fe al #94 de los Cowboys, quizá sea tiempo de que cambien de opinión. Gregory está de vuelta y va en serio.
¿Se Murió el Sueño por Earl Thomas?
La verdad es que hasta que no se termine la semana 8 de la temporada de la NFL, este sueño seguirá siendo discutido por todos los aficionados de la liga. Thomas ha regresado a entrenar con los Seahawks y tomará el campo en la primera semana para honrar el último año que le queda bajo contrato en Seattle.
Sin embargo, sigue en descontento con su equipo e incluso publicó una foto en Instagram donde declaraba que la falta de respeto no sería olvidada.
Pero antes de que Thomas terminará su pequeña huelga de offseason, los Dallas Cowboys (según reportes de ESPN) le ofrecieron una segunda ronda a los Seahawks. Y aún así, fueron rechazados. Seattle quiere más por él.
¿Estarán dispuestos los Cowboys a subir aún más su oferta? La verdad es que una selección de segunda ronda me causaría conflicto de por sí. Thomas es el mejor safety de la NFL, pero tiene 29 años y necesita un contrato a largo plazo para jugar.
Dallas podría ofrecer un jugador que ayudaría las necesidades de Seattle además de la selección del Draft, como Xavier Woods o Kavon Frazier o incluso alguien como Taco Charlton, quien ayudaría mucho a la defensiva de Seahawks.
Si Thomas cambiará de equipo en el 2018, una de estas administraciones tiene que ceder. No puedo evitar preguntarme si Seahawks quiere esperar a que se enfrenten a los Cowboys en la semana 3 antes de enviarlo a un rival potencial en la NFC.
Es una saga que parece haber llegado a su fin, pero no es el caso realmente hasta que lleguemos a la semana 8, cuando los equipos de la NFL tienen prohibido realizar trades.
Did DC Rod Marinelli Have Increased Role in Cowboys Loss at Rams?
The Dallas Cowboys Divisional Round loss at the Los Angeles Rams is still fresh on the minds of their players, staff, and front office. So much so that the team had to fan the flames on a Jason Garrett comment expecting Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan to return. Garrett himself walked back this "report" once Stephen Jones noted it's still too early for any coaching staff changes. The focus will remain on Linehan's post until it's removed or the Cowboys OC is retained, but one coordinator the Cowboys now expect to keep is Rod Marinelli on defense.
Marinelli himself disputed the season-long belief that this was likely his last as the Cowboys defensive coordinator. With Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard not taking any of the three HC positions he interviewed for, Marinelli doesn't have to worry about shuffling his title to accommodate Richard - who called the plays from week one this season anyway.
Rod's title does include his specialty as defensive line coach though, a unit that the Rams dominated with their offensive line to a historic degree. The Rams' season-high 273 rushing yards was provided by both Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson surpassing 100 yards on the ground, the first time in team history they've had two backs reach this mark in a single playoff game.
Rams HC Sean McVay hardly had to reach into his vaunted 'bag of tricks' to expose the Cowboys defense in a way they hadn't been all year, but there was still an element of brilliance in his offensive game plan. It came out after the game that the Rams picked up on the keys the Dallas defensive linemen used to signal stunts and twists before the snap. While this is nothing more than just great scouting yielding an unforeseen advantage, it's left the Cowboys with more than enough time to ponder what went wrong in the Coliseum.
The Rams offensive line knew what the Cowboys defensive line was going to do before the snap on Saturday. https://t.co/oGo6Eiz4av
The answer to this may be nothing other than the coaching questions the Cowboys are already considering. With Richard's interviews in Tampa Bay, Miami, and New York coming at the beginning of the week leading up to game day, it's possible Marinelli had a larger say in the Cowboys preparation on defense.
It was Marinelli's defense that conceded 412 yards to the Rams in 2017 in a loss at AT&T Stadium. Matching him up with McVay leaves a lot to be desired, while Richard helps bridge this gap - something he was seen desperately trying to do on the sideline with a battered Cowboys defense.
As each day of the offseason passes, a change at either coordinator position becomes less likely in Dallas. On offense, the play caller has more than a season's worth of evidence showing the deficiencies of the Cowboys attack. In a league fueled by recency bias however, Marinelli certainly didn't leave his best performance on the field in Los Angeles.
Somewhere in the middle of this is Jason Garrett, safely in place as the head coach that should be personally trying to upgrade his top two assistants however possible. Marinelli signing up for another year makes this hard on defense, though Richard should resume play calling duties next season.
Again, this leaves the onus of the Cowboys improvements for 2019 on the offensive side of the ball, something that'll be realized when the shock of their defense letting them down in the biggest game of the season is gone.
Cowboys Getting Over $30 Million Cap Space from Expiring Dead Money
You may have already heard that the Dallas Cowboys will be flush with salary cap space in 2019, and that's very accurate. A huge portion of it comes from over $30 million in expiring cap penalties, otherwise known as "dead money."
Quick explanation; dead money occurs when a player is released or retires prior to the expiration of their contract. Any guaranteed money, such as the original signing bonus or money converted in a restructuring, that has not yet been paid out according to the contract schedule is accelerated.
For example, when Tony Romo retired after 2016, he still had $19.6 million in guaranteed money owed to him. Dallas chose to split this dead money over two years, and thus had a $10.7 cap penalty in 2017 and $8.9 million last season.
But now Romo's dead money, along with Dez Bryant's and several other players, is coming off the Cowboys' books. The result is a roughly $30 million infusion of salary cap space for 2019.
Here were the major culprits for last year's dead money:
(All cap figures are taken from Spotrac.com)
- QB Tony Romo - $8.9 million
- WR Dez Bryant - $8 million
- DT Cedric Thornton - $2.5 million
- CB Orlando Scandrick - $2.3 million
- CB Nolan Carroll - $2 million
- WR Deonte Thompson - $1.8 million
- DE Benson Mayowa - $1.1 million
- K Dan Bailey - $800 thousand
- TE James Hanna - $750 thousand
Those players alone make up a little over $28 million. Another $4 million or so came from over 30 players with lesser penalties that still added up.
Right now, the Cowboys have only $1.76 million in dead money on their 2019 salary cap. Nearly all of that is the $1.6 million still owed to Orlando Scandrick.
That difference is where the cap space comes from, and it will be of tremendous help to Dallas as they have major financial moves coming. They need to re-sign DeMarcus Lawrence, deal with a major salary bump for Amari Cooper, and consider a contract extension for Dak Prescott.
The 2019 number will change, of course, as the offseason rolls on. If Dallas elects to release players like Sean Lee, Tyrone Crawford, or others, some dead money will appear. But that will be offset by whatever cap savings motivated the move in the first place.
This is a good reminder of why the Cowboys' new era of fiscal conservatism is a good thing. After years of what felt like perpetual "salary cap hell," they are finally getting out from under those penalties and have complete flexibility this offseason. They may not even need to cut a guy like Crawford, who they almost would have been forced to in past seasons.
We'll be talking a lot more about individual players and their contracts in the weeks ahead, but this summary helps us see that Dallas isn't nearly up against the financial wall as they have been. We still miss guys like Romo and Dez, but we won't miss that awful dead money in 2019.
Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program
Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.
After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.
Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire
While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.
It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.
Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.
That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.
But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.
Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.
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